A World Environment Day event - For children, by want-to-be-children
By: Tamralipta Patra and Aarabhi Balasubramanian
Every year, June 5th marks the World Environment Day initiated by the United Nations. This year, also kicked off the UNEP decade for ecosystem restoration with their hashtag #generationrestoration, calling individuals, organizations, and all entities to join the movement to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems all over the world.
The UNEP mapped out over 1400 events the world over. From global online gatherings to clean-ups, social events, movie screenings, and more, the global community came together to participate, learn and pledge their allegiance to the cause set forth by the UNEP. This map gave participants a window into the range of events that they could be a part of. One of the events registered in this global network of changemakers was Glocal CoLab.
Glocal CoLab’s initiative ‘Small Feet Giant Leap’ in partnership with Timbuktoo young authors publishing invited young minds and their young-at-heart parents to participate in an interactive and engaging futuring session. Devised from the idea that children are the citizens of the future and should therefore hold the power to design the future world, we centered the evening’s activities around the imaginative spirits of these kids.
"The stories we tell become the futures we inhabit.
To create better futures, we need different stories."
The underlying theme of the event was a design of the future, by the future. The children of today are the architects of tomorrow. In line with this thinking, prompts were set up as themes for the children to explore and imagine future scenarios. Prompts like underwater school, intergalactic playground, and coexicity (a city where animals, birds, forests, and humans have to coexist) were provided, and children were asked to draw their version of these worlds. As the parent in the parent-child duo, the adults, through a backcasting exercise, were nudged to think of what roles they play and what initiatives need to be taken today to realize their children's dreams for tomorrow.
With over 25 teams participating, we kicked off the session with a small icebreaker activity where a series of questions such as ‘Would you like to have a polar bear as a pet’ and ‘Have you visited more than three countries’ were asked, and children switched off and switched on their cameras based on their response. Children also followed up their responses with comments such as ‘it's too hot here for polar bears, which gave us an insight into their thinking and awareness of the world.
Our friend and colleague Tamra then took the children into the future through her storytelling session where we all jumped into a time machine and landed in 2050. Here the children were then grouped into various breakout rooms where they designed the future schools, playgrounds, and cities based on the prompts. While the children were busy imagining their worlds, the parents were introduced to the backcasting exercise. With the help of online jamboards, they were asked to pen down their thoughts on the actions of today that can enable their childrens’ visions. The event concluded with a 20-minute discussion, engaging the children and their parents to share their drawings, insights, and ideas for the future.
We set out to create a small but thought-provoking event for children and adults alike, in celebration of world environment day. Children's incorporation of trees, butterfly parks, and animals in intergalactic worlds being friends with fish and other sea-life in the underwater school, making ‘water roads for fishes in co-exicity, all showed us their sense of harmony, empathy, and co-existence with animals and nature. The children approached the prompts with a problem-solving mindset where they created worlds that were not only innovative and out-of-the-box, but also rooted in our real world and reflected the environment they see today.
The drawings, ideas, and interest that came our way as a result of this event were overwhelming. The complex yet simplistic thinking of the children, the earnest responses of the parents, and the effort and interest of our colleagues in bringing this event together made it the success that it was. We hope that through this session, we can, with subtlety, provoke in children the curiosity and imagination to design a better world for themselves. While this event is just a drop in the ocean, through continued efforts and many such events, discussions, and workshops, Glocal CoLab hopes to bring a future-thinking approach to designing a more sustainable world.